Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Champagne to Announce Ombudsman for Corporate Social Responsibility

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Champagne to Announce Ombudsman for Corporate Social Responsibility

Article excerpt

Grits to announce foreign business ombudsman

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OTTAWA - The Liberal government is planning to make good on a campaign promise to create an ombudsman with teeth to oversee the conduct of Canadian companies operating abroad.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is expected to announce the creation of a new position on Wednesday.

Government sources say the new position will be a substantive upgrade to the "corporate responsibility counsellor," which has been widely criticized as a toothless entity for dealing with misconduct complaints against Canadian companies, mainly in the mining industry.

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a matter not yet made public, said the new ombudsman would have jurisdiction over more than just the mining sector, but provided no further details.

The source said the position would be "the first in the world with real independence with real powers, and more than just mining."

It is not clear how much power the newly created position will be given, such as whether it will be able to compel specific behaviour from companies.

The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, an organization pushing for changes, says it is encouraged by the pending announcement but needs more details on whether the new office will have real powers and independence before endorsing it.

"Will the ombudsperson be relying on ministerial discretion to exercise investigator powers? Will the ombudsperson operate autonomously from Global Affairs Canada?" asked Stephanie Gervais, the group's spokeswoman.

The organization also wants Champagne to confirm whether the ombudsman can look at old cases retroactively or just new ones, she said.

Hundreds of mining companies operating in Latin America, Africa and Asia make Canada a leading player in the sector. But the sector is periodically the subject of human rights complaints and legal action, often by Indigenous groups. …

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